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Albee Benitez declares support for Poe with a bang, gets one step closer to speakership

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Ending months of speculation about his political preferences, Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez on Friday (March 18) formally threw his support behind the candidacies of Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero.

The fourth richest lawmaker in the 16th Congress, however, was not alone in making the big announcement.

In a press conference in his bailiwick, Benitez and more than a dozen lawmakers and local politikos announced their support for Poe and Escudero.

He even had the politikos flown in from Manila aboard a private jet to ensure that his announcement is accompanied by a show of force.

It’s an open secret that the businessman-politiko has his eyes set on the speakership in the next 17th Congress, and backing the current frontrunner in the presidential race puts him one step closer to his dream.

Benitez was formerly the head of the Liberal Party’s Negros Occidental chapter but decided to bolt the party at the last minute, declaring himself as an independent candidate for reelection.

The lawmaker was a known friend of administration standard bearer Mar Roxas, but their ties had been strained in recent months because of politics.

Benitez is expected to face competition for the speakership from incumbent House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., who is running unopposed.

Roxas had promised to retain Belmonte as Speaker if he wins as president.

But if Poe wins, the position might just be Benitez’s for the taking.